March 17, 2012

Rob Reid's Comical Take on Copyright Math and Inflated Hollywood Piracy Statistics

TEDTalks are really a fantastic medium to absorb information, because it forces speakers to choose words carefully and be more expressive in their lectures. We've covered some good ones, and even some fake ones, but this TEDTalk from Rob Reid attempts to shine a little light on copyright mathematicians and just how...accurate their information might be. You have to wonder where they get some of these numbers.

From FilmmakerIQ, here's the video:

It's fascinating to see the comparisons that Rob makes to real-world commerce, and how piracy math is hilariously hyperbolic. It's always amazed me that Hollywood gives such incredibly inflated numbers, when in reality the issue of piracy is much more nuanced and intricate than a simple number could ever convey. We need to have real conversations about piracy, and about what it means for independent filmmakers, because to say it's a simple matter of theft is just ignoring the much bigger issue: consumer viewing habits have changed dramatically and as Louis C.K. has proven, piracy seems to be more about accessibility than it is about consumers refusing to pay for content. Consumers want to pay for content, but DRM and long release windows force many people into piracy for the sake of convenience.

Hollywood accomplishes nothing by painting piracy in such broad and inaccurate strokes.

[via FilmmakerIQ]

Your Comment

16 Comments

I fail to see how stealing for convenience's sake is morally any more justifiable than stealing for money's sake, regardless of how inflated hollywoods piracy losses may be.

March 17, 2012 at 6:38PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Thomas

who said anything about a moral argument?

March 17, 2012 at 7:07PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Max

Exactly, I didn't say anything about morals. That's a completely separate issue.

March 17, 2012 at 7:56PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

The whole debate is one of morality. The studios are lying to us, which is unethical. Hence the outrage.
Also, i brought it up because if someone thinks piracy is morally reprehensible, they wouldn't do it, regardless of the convenience or the economics behind it. I don't think the piracy issues will be solved with numbers or with reason, because people want free stuff. Without internally-motivated reasons not to pirate, people will, for any reason they can justify.
I understand the desire to stick it to the big studios, but any economic leverage piracy gives you is soaked by the "little guy" long before the big studios fall. Their numbers may be bogus, but if they're losing money, it's not the guys at the top taking the hit; it's the below-the-line workers.

March 18, 2012 at 6:18PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Thomas

Actually, there have been studies about piracy that show people understand it is wrong, and "technically stealing," but they do it anyway because it's easy and everyone else is doing it. I really think Louie C.K. and others are on to something. If we as artists can deliver our work to people at a reasonable price, people will pay for it out of respect.

People always want free stuff, but there are enough people willing to pay for content if it is reasonably priced and they can watch it however they want to watch it. Digital downloads and pay streaming services are only growing - I think that's really the sign that piracy has been a matter of convenience.

March 18, 2012 at 6:56PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

A lot of the content i "steal" online, is content that i would never have bought in the first place. I am not just stealing it because it is convenient. A lot of the movies, music, programs, apps, i download i would never have even bought or considered buying in the first place. And i thinks that is safe to say for a lot of people. They are loosing out on a profit they could have made, if i would never have bought it in the first place.

I cant tell you how many times i have bough an iphone app for an overpriced 4.99$ just to find out it sucks, a lot. That is why my phone is jailbroken and i like to test out the apps before i make the plunge. There is some film making apps that i have gladly bought for 29.99$ after i found out they where indeed worth that intense pricing.

On another note, I have stolen adobe Cs5. I love it, it has helped me with making films and pursuing the art of cinematography. I am also a highschool student and could not afford the software otherwise. If i was making money with the software then i would have personal ethical issues with it, but since i am a student who is using it for education i see no problem with it. It was not a product i was going to buy anyways, so adobe is not going to loose out on money they could have made. Of course once i start my own production company, or start getting paid to edit, i better buy the products i use, but for now i see no problem with it. In fact in my opinion i think adobe benefits, because i am now learning how to use their software instead of competitors and likely down the road when it comes to making an expensive software purchase, guess who's i am going to buy?

Just a few thoughts.

Disclaimer: my gramar and spelling are terrible, get over it.

March 18, 2012 at 7:16PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Levi Allen

It's not stealing for conveniences sake that is the problem, it's stealing for profit.

Way back in the 1970s, theft was a problem for Hollywood. Before the VCR, before the 'Net and before Digital Copying people were Pirating movies. The first night of release, after the last showing, a Projectionist would "loan' a pirate a copy of the film. Then the movie went to a Lab, where someone on the night shift would make a Copy. Then the pirate would return the "loaned" print to the projectionist and nobody at the theater or movie studio would be the wiser.

Does Hollywood lose money to piracy, sure it does -- but it puts no Americans out of work. It does put people to work, in some third world country, making bootleg DVDs.

Theft is a problem. The internet isn't the cause of the problem it's just an excuse for Hollywood to take control of the 'net so that they can steal from you.

March 17, 2012 at 9:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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c.d.embrey

Just a bunch of rich people crowing about their bank accounts.

I am not a movie maker or anything like that. The entire camera thing is just a hobby. When I put music that I paid for, behind my homemade videos, then post them to youtube, Youtube sends me a copyright notice, its stupid, I should be able to use the music that I paid for the way I see fit. I am not making one red cent from the videos and I don't care about all the other BS that goes into the conversation.

I think I should just steal music from now on.

March 17, 2012 at 7:42PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Baron

I think we need to have a debate about copyright itself and how utterly ridiculous it has grown, favouring private gains over societal losses. When copyright law was originally devised, it was seen as a necessary evil to allow for *limited* periods of time of exclusivity so that creators would have the ability to earn some money on their creations. Originally, protection was 14 years. After that, it should be relegated to the public domain, free for everyone to use. Ever since copyright has been classified as a tradeable good, successful lobbyists have managed to extend the period time and again, from 14 to 28 to 56 and it currently stands at a whopping *70* years after the death of the author. Therefore, if you live to be a hundred, it will take 170 years before a song becomes part of the public domain. If ever, because one might easily fear yet another extension. Mainly by corporations, whose stock price is largely dependent on this very notion (for corporations it currently stands at 100 years).

Meanwhile, the other part of intellectual property law, patent law has remained solidly at 20 years of exclusivity. Apparently, societies believe that progress should be made when it comes to machines, medicins and other inventions, but allow for almost unlimited protection when it comes to the arts. As the last part of the invaluable series "Everything is a Remix" from Kirby has shown us, these days there are even companies that specialise in sueing for infringement (so-called copyright trolls), purely for private gains. As a result of the surreal protection the law provides and the advancement of technology (distribution = copying), we have reached a point where most of us live and act in disagreement with the law. This poses the question, is the law made for the benefit of the few (those who gain from copyright law) or to regulate and advance society as a whole?

March 18, 2012 at 5:13AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Check http://www.everythingisaremix.info/ for the full series.

March 18, 2012 at 5:18AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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That's a great series of videos. I think you're absolutely right, it's interesting but a lot of the copyright extensions can be attributed to Disney, who fought incredibly hard to keep their content from going into the public domain and thus lobbied Congress to extend it. Copyright is really made to benefit the few, because they can actually afford to fight cases when issues arise - everyone else can't risk fighting because a loss would be devastating.

March 18, 2012 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

All the more surprising because Disney itself based a big chunk of its creations on stories taken from ... the public domain! It only proves the point that nothing is original anymore (or: everything is a remix). In order to learn the arts we start by copying others, so why do some get to exploit that and especially, why so freaking long? Much like penecilin or the CD player, as a society we should say enough is enough.

March 18, 2012 at 5:51PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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I am not in favor of people abusing the law for private gain but I think the whole copyright law being extended is one, something almost nobody knows about, and two a complete red herring because most people don't care about remixing media they just want stuff for free, that is one of those post hoc justifications for piracy that always amazes me because in the decade or so since Napster almost no one I have known who downloads content for free from high school to college to co workers and what not have had any aim higher than getting stuff for free, Which is what it is, maybe you can't afford it and maybe you would buy if you could but that's beside the point. I think one of the main things I've noticed about this "piracy debate" is that the internet increases the echo chamber effect so that people on sites such as this are likely going to be very similar even if they are separated geographically and people in Hollywood are in their bubble so they obviously aren't hearing from people outside it. But the internet is not representative of the mainstream of society as people hope it is, so maybe the people motivated to comment or read articles about piracy might have reasoned arguments, but that has nothing to do with the vast majority of people who do it. Who just want free stuff. Because while we all at this site care at least nominally about art, most people don't and free is better than a dollar. To summarize, let's all just be honest that Hollywood is run by a bunch of greedy SOBs just like every big industry but if someone releases a product they do have a right to determine how it should be released and on what terms. If you don't agree with them, find a product that's released on terms you agree with. And if you don't agree with copyright law, lobby to get it changed.

March 25, 2012 at 8:26PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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James

"Consumers want to pay for content, but DRM and long release windows force many people into piracy for the sake of convenience."

I don't think that is true. People want things for free, I don't anyone who enjoys paying for stuff that could be free. People here buy movies on the black market even if they are being screened at the cinema at the moment. It's a matter of simple economics.

I am not an expert, as I made obvious on my statements. But my view is that a movie should base its income from tickets. When the projection period is over, then so be it. LIke a musician should base his income by playing live. Those experiences cannot be substituted by anything.

It is EXACTLY the same to download a pirate copy of a DVD or a music CD or whatever. But you cannot emulate the EXPERIENCE of going to the cinema or to a live gig. I think hollywood should consider to enhance that experience and people will pay to not miss it.

My point of view.

March 18, 2012 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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maghoxfr

Morals is a completely different issue? it would be lovely if it were true, but morality is like a building's foundation. You may never contemplate it, discuss it, and you might be clueless about how weak or well-built it is, but everything you do in that building is standing on it. Discussions of morality don't work well in formats like this. Not because they aren't important, but there is not enough time or space to get anywhere and we can't look each other in the eye. What we believe to be right and wrong, and how we come by those beliefs will certainly land us on sides for issues like copyright law and piracy, but it also governs what we create and submit to the public. I do MOS interviews on this (morality) often, and the best description of today's culture is most people have their feet firmly planted in mid air, arguing as though passion trumps reason. We justify whatever we do pretty easily, especially when it comes to spending, saving and making money, That is, of course, why it is permissable to grossly exaggerate data to influence legislation.

March 23, 2012 at 12:27PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Russell Steen

What always amazes me is how many people are willing to watch movies in terribly bad quality on an illegal streaming site - just because it's free. I mean I don't have to have 4K quality, I can watch a 720p or DVD movie on a 27" monitor with stereo sound and enjoy it. But that's about the minimum quality standard before I'd rather not watch the movie at all.
We professionals are always aiming for higher quality, 4k, 5k, 10bit, 12bit - while big parts of the home audience is watching cam-ripped movies in 512x288 resolution with audio that sounds like it comes from a metal bucket. I don't understand it, but it's a fact...

March 24, 2012 at 11:46AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Heiko